August 18, 2022
How to Baby-Proof a House
Written By: Lexi C
Just like nothing can truly prepare you for having or how to care for a newborn, nothing can truly prepare you for how quickly they can get into trouble once they're mobile. There are so many things to think of, and so many are things you would never think to think of. The idea of baby-proofing your entire home for pint-sized pandemonium can be overwhelming. Fear not. We've compiled a list of baby-proofing must-haves and room-by-room tips to prepare your crib for someone who may soon be jumping out of theirs.
How to Baby-Proof a House
As I started compiling this list, considering the essentials for baby-proofing a house, it suddenly felt like I was creating a checklist for a covert ops mission or crafting the agenda for some elaborate heist.
Gates? Check. Locks? Check. Straps, covers, ties? Check. Check. Check. I had to laugh. But as I thought more about it, that's what baby-proofing is. Putting a plan into action to out scheme your baby. To do so, you've got to get on their level, see the world as they see it, sidestep any landmines (I'm looking at you, electrical socket), and get to the other side, adolescence (different landmine), as unscathed as possible. Here are the essentials to get you started on your baby-proofing plan.
Gates will be your front line of defense in your baby-proofing mission. The type of gate you will need (pressure mounted, hardware mounted, or free-standing) will vary depending on the layout of your home, but no matter what, you're probably going to want to invest in at least one.
We opted for pressure-mounted gates for doorways and cased openings to avoid damaging the walls with mounting hardware. Also, since they aren't as permanent, it allows you to easily move gates around as your needs change. Currently, ours are being used to keep our new baby, a 6-month-old puppy, from demolishing the house. You can purchase extensions for most gates to accommodate a variety of openings, and they also come in varying heights, which is something to consider if you are using one at the base of stairs or have a climber on your hands. Gates provide some freedom for your child to play in a designated "safe zone" and free you up to do something like maybe, eat dinner without constantly jumping up to re-route a rouge baby.
We also made use of a free-standing gate, which works like a corral (or "baby jail," as my husband likes to call it) to create a safe, contained area for the babies to play and can be used in any room of the house and even outdoors! Gates? Check.
Babies are curious by nature. Foster that curiosity by creating areas that are safe to explore and keeping them out of areas that are not. Lock rooms that are not safe for children to be in unsupervised. Consider the type of handles your doors have, including sliding doors, and install locks or baby-proofing mechanisms on door handles to keep your baby from gaining access to places they don't need to be. Lock cabinets and drawers that contain items that could be harmful; medicine, cleaning supplies, sharp objects, batteries, choking hazards...the list is endless. So, if it's in question, play it safe and lock it up—even your upper cabinets. You'll be amazed at how quickly drawer pulls can turn into a counter ladder for your toddler.
Now that you have your series of cages and have locked up everything in your house let's move on to restraints. See how this begins to sound a bit tactical. In all seriousness, strapping things down is an often overlooked task that can result in severe and sometimes fatal injury. Is it realistic to anchor every item in your house that could topple? Probably not. But heavy furniture, especially dressers, bookshelves, and televisions, can be hazardous and should be secured with an anchor or mounted to the wall. We also loved using adhesive latches to keep things like toilet seats, trash cans, and refrigerator doors securely closed, so our little explorers were kept safe and out of places best left unexplored. Straps? Check.
Like a heat-seeking missile finds its target, so too will your sweet baby find every sharp corner and electrical socket in your home. Your best bet in this situation? Cover and conceal. Apply corner covers to sharp corners, like coffee tales, to minimize boo-boos while your little one is learning to pull up, walk, and, you guessed it...RUN!
As for electrical outlets, you can thwart curious fingers by replacing existing outlet covers with self-closing outlet covers if your home doesn't already have them. If you don't feel like going through the hassle (and we didn't) of installing new covers, you can opt for outlet covers that simply plug into your outlets. However, those don't help much if you actually need to use the outlet. In outlets we often used, my husband and I installed outlet cover boxes that allow you to plug something in, and close the box to encase wires so your little budding electrician can't tamper with them. Covers? Check.
"You've got to get on their level, see the world as they see it..."
There's nothing like baby-proofing a house to make you realize just how many cords you have. Don't overlook cords for blinds and smart devices. They are everywhere, and little ones can trip over them or, worse, could strangle themselves. All cords/cables/ties need to either be well hidden and/or secured. Install cleats to secure blind cords and contain long electrical cords with a cord shortener or cable winder to reduce the risk of injury. Ties? Check.
Now, for a few room-by-room tips to help you along the way.
ROOM BY ROOM TIPS
- (Re)Move the Breakables - If you have breakable things (lamps, picture frames, vases), make sure they are moved up and out of reach (or removed altogether) for, like, the next 15 years. They will find them, and they will break them.
KITCHEN / DINING
- Ditch the Linens - Pulling a table cloth off a table and leaving everything in place is a trick best left to magicians. Get rid of tablecloths or runners that hang over the table's edge and opt for a pretty set of placemats and maybe a splat mat for the baby.
- Make a "Baby-Friendly" Cabinet/Drawer - In the kitchen, consider designating one lower cabinet or low drawer to remain unlocked with baby-safe items, like plastic/metal bowls, colanders, and spatulas, to keep little bodies busy while you cook.
- Stop Slippage - Babies and toddlers are slippery enough as it is. Do yourself a favor and invest in a non-slip mat or non-slip adhesive strips for the tub to keep slips to a minimum. If you are in someone else's home, a plastic laundry basket placed in the tub is a great alternative!
- Watch the Temp - Get a bath thermometer. There is a lot to think about during bath time, so knowing your water is safe for baby's sensitive skin is a huge help. At home, you can set the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees or lower to prevent burns.
- Don't forget to Drain - We all know not to leave a baby unattended in the bath, but don't forget to drain the tub when you're done. Children can drown in an inch of water, so drain the tub to ensure bath water is not left unattended.
- Look for Little Things - Anything that can fit through a toilet paper tube can be a choking hazard. Get down on the floor and scan for little things like coins, lipstick, or bobby pins your baby could choke on.
- Clip The Drapes - Curtains attached to rods can be pulled down by your little one pulling up. Use clips to hang curtains to prevent injury.
OTHER ROOMS / HOUSES / THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Coolers - Store empty coolers out of the reach of small children. They can climb inside and become trapped.
- Doorstops - Remove/replace two-piece doorstops. They are right at baby's eye level (and reach), come apart easily, and can be a choking hazard.
- Other homes - Do a scan of potential hazards in any home (like Grandparents) where your child is spending time. Often baby-proofing is overlooked in homes that aren't the primary residence, and things like medicines and cleaning supplies need to be placed out of the reach of tiny hands.
We know, it seems like a lot. Just remember, baby-proofing is a process. Each baby will show interest in different hazards, and every new location will come with different risks. Ultimately, the extent to which you want to take your baby-proofing game is up to you. So, whether you are a Fort-Knox level babyproofer or taking a little less intense approach, our advice is to start early (before they start crawling) and keep your eye on the prize...a safe and happy home for your new little ninja.